Biden COVID czar: Sure, we may extend mask mandates on air travel

I’m sure they might, given the Biden administration’s determination to burn down its party in the midterms. Ashish Jha has taken over the messaging for Joe Biden on the pandemic from Anthony Fauci, but the overall message of zero-COVID hasn’t changed. Jha tells NBC’s Savannah Guthrie that the CDC could extend the air-travel mask mandate that should expire a week from today, even while hospitalizations continue to fall and the BA.2 Omicron subvariant isn’t producing a spike in diagnoses, even collaterally:

The Biden administration is prepared to extend the federal mask mandate further for transportation networks, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said.

“This is a [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] decision, and I think it is absolutely on the table,” Jha said on the Today Show on Monday. …

Walensky will “make her decision based on the framework that the CDC scientists create” in the coming days, Jha said.

What in fact is the scientific basis for masking on airplanes now? Airline CEOs wondered that as well, pointing out in a letter objecting to last month’s extension to the mask mandate that the CDC still had not provided a sufficient explanation for what masks actually do in the tightly controlled air-treatment environment on airplanes:

“The high level of immunity in the U.S., availability of high-quality masks for those who wish to use them, hospital-grade cabin air, widespread vaccine availability and newly available therapeutics provide a strong foundation for the Administration to lift the mask mandate and predeparture testing requirements. We urge you to do so now.

“We are requesting this action not only for the benefit of the traveling public, but also for the thousands of airline employees charged with enforcing a patchwork of now-outdated regulations implemented in response to COVID-19.”

Guthrie then wants to know about case numbers being “severely undercounted,” but that’s not the metric that matters. If people are being infected by COVID-19 but not presenting themselves for treatment, then what’s the problem? We don’t impose such mandated interventions in transportation or commerce for any other disease. It’s an example of mission creep, in fact; the point of the mask mandates and other interventions were to buy time to ramp up medical resources that severely acute cases of COVID-19 would require. We’ve accomplished that — in fact, we accomplished that more than a year ago.

If anything, the scientific basis for an extension has grown even worse over the last month. Hospitalizations — which are still correlative rather than causative, thanks to the “scientists” at the CDC — are dropping in BA.2, not increasing:

Deaths are also still dropping (check the same NYT link, derived from CDC data), even though that data is also still correlative as well as hospital admissions. We have reached a level of vaccination/exposure to see some level of significant resistance to acute case development, plus we also have much more effective therapeutics on hand.

The only argument for having the transportation in place now, let alone extending it, is that we are pursuing a zero-COVID policy. That’s not a scientific position — it’s a completely irrational expectation, both nationally and globally. It’s a political position driven by the politicized “scientists” at the CDC that also keeps recommending mask mandates on children in schools even though there is no data at all suggesting that children without significant pre-existing complications are at risk of developing severely acute cases of COVID-19, nor that their death rate in this pandemic is any worse than a typical year of the flu. And we have all sorts of data showing that schools do not become vectors of community transmission, data that existed by the summer of 2020 but which the CDC has consistently ignored while pandering to teachers’ unions at the expense of the health of children.

If we’re not unmasking by this time, it’s because Biden and his team won’t ever unmask. Congress needs to step in and put an end to this unscientific policy. In the meantime, forcing masks on travelers for hours at a stretch will remind many of them for the need to elect a Congress that will accomplish that task.

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